Saturday, February 28, 2015

SEA Magic And Scandinavian Lore (南北信仰比较)

From Bjerstdedt’s work, we see that some Scandinavian lore and SEA magical practices are quite closely matched; at least it is of my view. It is not my intention to make a full fledge comparison at this moment, but I would just skim through the given topics and add some comments of my own:


In Scandinavian lore:

Saliva is potent for magic, especially the saliva in the mouth when one wakes up.

In Taoism:

Saliva is known as “the fluid of jade” (玉液). A Taoist would try to collect some saliva in the morning by moving his/her tongue in the mouth and when he/she has a mouthful of saliva, it is swallowed to Dantian and this is good for health and can harness magic power. Taoists call this practice “shape enhancement with jade juice” (玉液练形).

In Thai magic:

Saliva is collected in the “golden tongue” ritual during the meditation practice to “make words come true”.

In Malay magic:

Saliva of a person contain his/her soul essence, it can be collected to perform soul catching ritual.

The Northern Direction

In Scandinavian lore:

Water that flows to the North is considered to be beneficial to your health.

In Taoism:

The north as a whole is very significant in Taoist magic. In I-Ching, the north belongs to water element. Many Taoist idols such as: The Northern Plough (北斗), Marichi ( 斗母), Purple Emperor (紫微大帝) and Xuanwu Emperor (玄武帝君) resides in the Northern heaven.

The Northern Plough is said to be in charge of the realm of death. So any rituals done to prolong one’s life would first worship the Northern Plough for forgiveness. Since the north belongs to water element, the Northern Plough is also believed to be able to purify all defilements.

The calculation of flying star starts at the north indicating the softer approach of Ying energy is much revered in Chinese culture.


This is perhaps unique to Scandinavia.


This is perhaps unique to Scandinavia.

Rowan wood

This is perhaps unique to Scandinavia alone. But holy woods are used across various magical traditions.


In Scandinavian lore:

Iron is considered protective against evil spirits and trolls.

In Indian ritual and all SEA magic:

Iron is the only metal used to subjugate all kind of spirits. It is thus not appropriate to serve food on an iron plate.


In Scandinavian lore:

Ranglestav are rattles meant for warding off unwanted entities.

In Yao Taoism:

Metallic rattles such as that attached at ritual sword handle is used to scare away unwanted spirits. (see picture)


In Scandinavian lore:

In the Scandinavian magic, the gods and spirits are thought to hold their things (assemblies) during Thursdays.

In Malay and Thai magic:

Rituals are mostly done on Thursday night for the same reason.


In Scandinavian lore:

These were usually the biggest tree on the farm.

In Indian ritual and all SEA magic:

A single tree on a piece of plane such as a grass field is where spirits of that area congregates.


In Scandinavian lore:

A spirit, usually depicted as looking pretty much like a garden gnome and they are often considered to be the man who first cleared out the wilderness and established the farm.

In Indian ritual and all SEA magic:

This type of spirit is normally known as ‘earth spirit’ and it is revered by giving it a small shrine. In Malaysia, it is called a ‘datuk’ or grandfather spirit.


In Scandinavian lore:

The halmkrona, oro, or himmeli, is a form of hanging sculpture made from straw.
It's considered to both protect, and it's also believed by some that they can house the ancestor spirits.

In Indian ritual and all SEA magic:

Looks like a ‘dream catcher’. The closest one is the Indian Yantra and Taoist Bagua but needs further research.


In Scandinavian lore:

In the Nordic countries, hospitality is (or at least was) a great virtue. But when you let hobos in, they weren't allowed to pass the kronstång/stackarebjälke, which was a symbolic barrier that parted a room.

In SEA as a whole:

Curtains are normally used. I am sure some sort of similar structures such as the above are used as separation between private and public place.

There are certainly many detailed studies that need to be done but the above comparisons are just a fast tag along to Bjerstdedt’s contribution at:


  1. Very interesting comparisons you've done here.

    I've done some more research on the himmeli, and it seems to originate in Finland, but I can't find anything about it being used for housing ancestor spirits, so I may have just confused it with something else.

    I've also emailed you a couple of translations of some magical spells (mostly incantations), and I've found a great treasure trove of folklore from northern Sweden I might translate some stuff from.

  2. I should also tell that the iron rattle isn't called "trollkors", they are called "ranglestav". As far as I know, there have only been two of them found, but their material, and the location they were found makes it pretty likely that they were used for warding.

    1. Thank you for the clarification. Problem with items made of iron is that they oxidized very soon over time, especially the ones that are exposed to weather and sea water... Nevertheless, items that can make noise such as bells and rattles were also been used by Himalayas shamans to ward off evils. Though I was just guessing... it is perhaps safe to say that "ranglestav" is meant also for exorcism rituals.

  3. Saliva, just to add to your info. Even in India under Hinduism & Jainism, not sure about the Buddhist though. The Saliva in the mouth when one wakes up in the morning is considered to have vital qualities & benefits. ex: Those who have eyesight vision problem & got numbers (Spectacles) to their eyes...if they apply this acidic saliva regularly to their eyes accompanied with eye exercise then wash it with water.. their numbers & spectacles will go for most people. Many don't know this magical secret in India & elsewhere.